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Count the Toys!

Can a baby have too many toys? Absolutely!

Can parents and grandparents be conned into buying the wrong kinds of toys? You bet.

I first wrote about Toy Overload in 1993. I believe this is the most common, but totally preventable, problem among today’s children. As a doting grandmother I have contributed to this in the past but I am now a reformed toy-shopaholic.

Play is important because play equals learning and is the “work” of children and young mammals. Species that need to learn a lot, like higher primates and humans, play the most. We parents must provide a safe, age-appropriate milieu for play and furnish the child with toys, just not too many.

You know how I rant about how children (and parents) are exposed to intensive and very lucrative marketing for what I call “junk toys.” Those plastic, breakable, un-fixable, anti-imagination (the child can only do one thing with them), widely-advertised, and widely-displayed toys that often come in a series so children want the whole set.

You know how hard it is to avoid being brainwashed by the clever advertising of the mega-million dollar globalized toy industry. Children may feel “entitled” to have whatever they see advertised. Affluent parents may indulge the kiddies because they can afford it. Struggling parents may feel sorry for their children so they buy what they cannot afford. Working parents may think that toys substitute for time. And all parents cave in to a kid’s demands once in a while just because it’s too darn difficult to resist.

I am beginning to realize that too many toys can actually interfere with play. I have watched babies surrounded by a surfeit of toys. They go from toy to toy in a frenzy, not really playing with anything. I am beginning to wonder if too many toys might also interfere with a baby’s development of attention. Rapidly changing pictures on TV and dashing from toy to toy are somewhat similar.

Glad I reformed! On my recent visit to Joshua I brought only two picture books and a flat cloth bear that crinkled when touched. After all, no Grandma, even a reformed toy shopper, can arrive empty handed!

Parents: Here are the NEW Heins suggestions to help parents prevent and combat toy overload:

  • RESIST MARKETING! Limit TV and teach your kids that a commercial is designed for only one purpose: to get people to buy the product.
  • BE SELECTIVE! Avoid junk toys. Buy developmentally appropriate toys, “nutritious toys” that are sturdy and can be used in several different ways.
  • TAKE CORRECTIVE ACTION! if my advice comes too late and the playpen and toy bins are already overflowing, I advised the parents of my newest grandson who celebrates his first birthday this month, to remove all but 5 or 6 toys from the playpen, put away the rest, and rotate every couple of days. Older children? Set up a toy bank. Store many if not most of the toys and teach the kids that in order to get a toy out of the bank they have to deposit a toy.
  • AVOID NOISY, FLASHING TOYS! My daughter-in-law recently complained about a baby bouncer loud enough to be heard from another room and questioned whether it could hurt the baby’s ears. Yes, some toys are so loud that repeated use could harm hearing. But such toys can also be boring. Once Joshua learned to push the button, then what is he supposed to do?
  • PREVENT TOY CONFUSION! Teach the children how to put toys away so they can find them. Show them how to store small pieces in clear plastic boxes or jars and help them label containers, first with pictures then words.

TELL YOUR FRIENDS THEY CAN GET A PROFESSIONAL, PERSONAL, AND PRIVATE ANSWER TO THEIR PARENTING QUESTIONS BY GOING TO info@ParentKidsRight.com